Retail Leader - May/June 2018 - 32

> TECHNOLOGY AND INNOVATION

Magic Maker

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LOLLI & POPS' FORMULA OF EXPERIENTIAL STORES, CUTTING EDGE TECHNOLOGY
AND DELIGHTFUL SERVICE IS A SWEET LESSON FOR RETAILERS. > Gina Acosta
On a perfect spring day that seemed to be tailor-made for Instagram, dozens of children and adults in Atlanta stood outside,
looking at their smartphones, waiting.
The weather had finally turned beautiful after a cold winter, so
one might think they were pausing to take turns snapping selfies in
the sunshine. But, in fact, they were just biding their time, waiting
for the upscale Perimeter Mall to open. When the doors opened,
many shoppers headed to Lolli & Pops, a fast-growing candy retailer based in San Francisco that is convinced delighting shoppers
and leveraging technology are keys to physical retail's bright future.
"People walk in and leave the store very happy," said Sid Gupta,
CEO of Lolli & Pops. "Candy elicits a very emotional response.
And then when I looked around at how everyone else was selling candy, I asked myself, for such an emotional product, why is
everyone selling candy in such an un-emotional way? I thought we
could sell candy in a better way."
At a time when people in the industry talk about right-sizing their brick and mortar operation, Gupta talks about how
quickly he can expand his store footprint.

Under his leadership, Lolli & Pops has experienced remarkable
growth since its founding in 2012. The company Lolli & Pops Inc.
now has 47 stores under its namesake banner, and 12 stores under
the Candyopolis banner. It plans to open 30 more Lolli & Pops
stores this year, which would make it the leading specialty candy
store chain in the United States.
The success of Lolli & Pops would seem to fly in the face of many
retail and CPG trends, from healthy snacks overtaking the confectionary category, to candy sales declining or moving online. But
plain old-fashioned candy is, in fact, still a strong seller, and much
of it is still an impulse purchase transacted in physical stores.

INDULGENCES STILL MATTER
When it comes to food, yes, it's true, many American consumers
are "putting their health first." As a result, sales of everything from
better-for-your snacks to organic eggs to kombucha are on the
rise. While food retailers are scrambling to install juice bars and
kombucha taps in response, the snack industry is awash in mergers,
acquisitions and efforts that aim to turn candy makers into "innovation snacking powerhouses," as Hershey puts it.
But hard candy, chocolate and other sweet snack categories are
still growing. "The candy category is a $30 billion retail category
and it's never been down, since it started being tracked during the
Great Depression," Gupta says. "Candy is not dying. The way we
consume candy is very different from other foods. We consume it
infrequently. Candy is a treat consumers eat in moderation and it's
very well woven in our traditions."
Gupta is right. The confectionery category was up 2% over the
past 52 weeks through January 2018, according to data insights firm
IRI, and annual sales have grown 2%-4% over the past five years. In
the grocery industry, confectionery continues to see above-average
gains, up 3.3% over the latest 52 weeks, led by chocolate, up 4%.
Mintel, in its latest chocolate confectionery study, projects 19%
growth in candy sales through 2020.
It's clear that Americans still love a good indulgence. But not just
any piece of candy. As consumers look to moderation, the perceived
quality of the sweet or salty snack is ever more important. It's something that Gupta says led him to found Lolli & Pops.

PASSIONATE PURVEYOR

Lolli & Pops CEO Sid Gupta says the candy category is alive and
well despite consumer health and wellness trends.

32

Retail Leader.com MAY/JUNE 2018

Gupta is an accidental retail disruptor, although he did always have
an entrepreneurial itch, he says.
After growing up in the San Francisco area and going to college
in Chicago, Gupta worked on Wall Street in investment banking
and private equity. A few years later he left and started looking for
things to do. He discovered a distressed chain of 11 candy stores,
called Candyopolis, based in Oklahoma City. At the time, he admit-


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Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Retail Leader - May/June 2018

Contents
Retail Leader - May/June 2018 - Cover1
Retail Leader - May/June 2018 - Cover2
Retail Leader - May/June 2018 - 3
Retail Leader - May/June 2018 - Contents
Retail Leader - May/June 2018 - 5
Retail Leader - May/June 2018 - 6
Retail Leader - May/June 2018 - 7
Retail Leader - May/June 2018 - 8
Retail Leader - May/June 2018 - 9
Retail Leader - May/June 2018 - 10
Retail Leader - May/June 2018 - 11
Retail Leader - May/June 2018 - 12
Retail Leader - May/June 2018 - 13
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Retail Leader - May/June 2018 - 15
Retail Leader - May/June 2018 - 16
Retail Leader - May/June 2018 - 17
Retail Leader - May/June 2018 - 18
Retail Leader - May/June 2018 - S1
Retail Leader - May/June 2018 - S2
Retail Leader - May/June 2018 - S3
Retail Leader - May/June 2018 - S4
Retail Leader - May/June 2018 - S5
Retail Leader - May/June 2018 - S6
Retail Leader - May/June 2018 - S7
Retail Leader - May/June 2018 - S8
Retail Leader - May/June 2018 - 19
Retail Leader - May/June 2018 - 20
Retail Leader - May/June 2018 - 21
Retail Leader - May/June 2018 - 22
Retail Leader - May/June 2018 - 23
Retail Leader - May/June 2018 - 24
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Retail Leader - May/June 2018 - 42
Retail Leader - May/June 2018 - Cover3
Retail Leader - May/June 2018 - Cover4
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